A Surprising Gift of Music

Make text smaller Make text larger

Sonic Blossom at the Met is a sound art piece like no other


  • Sonic Blossom, a breathtaking sound art piece, performed at the Metropolitan Museum. Photo by Adel Gorgy

“May I offer you a gift?”

A beautiful young woman dressed in richly embroidered textiles, looking like she had just stepped out of a painting in one of the nearby galleries of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum, asked me this question.

Sonic Blossom is a remarkable sound art piece that was performed in various galleries in the museum during a brief period in recent weeks. It was conceived of and created by artist Lee Mingwei and addresses what is given and what is received in perceiving works of art. In this work, Lee Mingwei encouraged a group of talented music students to share a gift from their hearts, offering both love and song.

The performer approaches a visitor with this offer. Some shrug and walk away, others accept, and sit in a specially located chair across from a stand with two small speakers. A bit of music plays, and then the singer’s voice blossoms, filling the space and the senses with a Schubert lied, brilliantly performed.

The musician never loses eye contact. It’s a one-to-one experience that’s extraordinarily moving. I’ve experienced sound art pieces that were jarring and discomforting and others that were just perplexing. Most leave me unmoved. This was not like that. This was not like anything else. If I ever get to heaven, this is how I’d like to be welcomed.

Because we came as a family, we all huddled around the single chair as one person, sharing the experience, which made it more meaningful to me. Other than focusing on the exquisite sound of the young woman’s voice, I thought, “Pay attention. This will never happen again.” Part of the whole point of art. And life.

Make text smaller Make text larger



Image Emerald Empire evicts autos
For the first time since the 19th century, Central Park turns its back on the internal combustion engine, embraces anew its original purpose as an urban refuge
Image MTA unveils bus action plan
Proposal calls for updated route network, expanded traffic enforcement and tech upgrades to speed up boarding and travel times
Image A First Look at Pier 17
The waterfront space, featuring restaurants, ESPN studios and rooftop performance venue, will soon open its doors to the public
Image Remembrance and the Great War
Or how a legendary warrior gave his name to an avenue — and how the East Side pays tribute to pluck, heroism and valor
On the block

east side observer


What’s missing — When a local business goes out, my thoughts are generally about the loss to the...


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters


Local News
Remembrance and the Great War
  • Apr 17, 2018
Local News
Mastering money
  • Apr 17, 2018
Local News
Students rally for gun-control
  • Apr 20, 2018
Local News
A First Look at Pier 17
  • Apr 23, 2018
Local News
A quest for the greatest gift
  • Apr 19, 2018